Council discussion focuses on compensation for radiation exposure and nuclear testing ban
by Charli Engelhorn
staff writer
Feb 23, 2012 | 2093 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Grand County could become the fifth area in the state to pass a resolution that would commemorate individuals who were adversely affected by radiation exposure while working or living downwind from a nuclear testing site in Nevada. The resolution would also support expanding compensation for that exposure to all residents of Utah and also urges the U.S. Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) provides compensation to U.S. citizens who were exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Proving Ground between Jan. 21, 1951 and Oct. 31, 1958 and from June 30, 1962 to July 17 1962, according to documents presented to the Grand County Council this week by council member Audrey Graham. Kane County, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, and Springdale, Utah have already passed similar resolutions, according to Graham.

RECA originally stipulated that citizens who sought compensation had to be residents of Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, Wayne, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, and Washington counties in order to be eligible for payments. In 2004, the Utah legislature passed H.J.R. 20, a resolution that would include all counties in the state in the compensation act because residents in the other 19 counties “were exposed to radiation comparable to the residents of currently eligible counties,” according to the information presented to the county council.

In December 2011, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 330, designating Jan. 27, 2012 as the day of remembrance for “Downwinders,” the name given to Americans working or living downwind from the nuclear testing sites. Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert joined the U.S. Senate by declaring a similar statewide day of remembrance on Jan. 27.

“Many Utah residents who lived downwind from the Nevada National Security Site... were adversely affected, became ill or lost their lives as a result of radiation exposure generated by the above ground nuclear weapons testing,” stated Herbert in his declaration. “Downwinders paid a high price for the development of a nuclear weapons program for the benefit of the United States... [and] deserve to be recognized for their sacrifice.”

Although nuclear weapons testing in the United States ended in 1992 and Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom had all ceased testing between 1991 and 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty signed by all those countries and the U. S. in 1996 has yet to be ratified by Congress. The resolution proposed by Graham also serves to urge the U.S. Senate to ratify the test ban treaty, which would place a ban on further explosive nuclear weapons testing. That aspect of the resolution was also supported by Kane County, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, and Springdale, as well as being the focus of a resolution passed by the Utah House of Representatives in 2010.

Graham also includes uranium miners and millers from the same era in Grand County as part of the resolution; however, there was some discussion among council members about whether the U.S. Senate considers those workers eligible for compensation under RECA. The council decided to review that issue and the resolution documents further before making any decisions, and council members could vote on the resolution as early as their next meeting on March 6.


Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

report abuse...

Express yourself:

We're glad to give readers a forum to express their points of view on issues important to this community. That forum is the “Letters to the Editor.” Letters to the editor may be submitted directly to The Times-Independent through this link and will be published in the print edition of the newspaper. All letters must be the original work of the letter writer – form letters will not be accepted. All letters must include the actual first and last name of the letter writer, the writer’s address, city and state and telephone number. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.

Letters may not exceed 400 words in length, must be regarding issues of general interest to the community, and may not include personal attacks, offensive language, ethnic or racial slurs, or attacks on personal or religious beliefs. Letters should focus on a single issue. Letters that proselytize or focus on theological debates will not be published. During political campaigns, The Times-Independent will not publish letters supporting or opposing any local candidate. Thank you letters are generally not accepted for publication unless the letter has a public purpose. Thank you letters dealing with private matters that compliment or complain about a business or individual will not be published. Nor will letters listing the names of individuals and/or businesses that supported a cause or event. Thank you letters about good Samaritan acts will be considered at the discretion of the newspaper.